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Understanding Palma Cathedral's history | From inception to the 21st century

A Gothic masterpiece in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Palma Cathedral took over 300 years to complete. Construction began in the 13th century and made La Seu Mallorca’s symbol.

Palma Cathedral timeline

1230 - Documents related to the Palma Cathedral date back to 1230, with Bishop Pere de Morella consecrating the altar of the high altar.

2nd half of the 13th century - The construction of the building as we know it began during the reign of James II (1276-1311). The new factory, integrated into the Royal Chapel and home to the tombs of the monarchs of the Royal House of Mallorca, was also constructed around the same time.

1498 - Palma Cathedral’s Bell Tower, featuring nine bells, was completed in 1498. The largest of them is called Eloi.

15th century -  Work on the Old Work of the Cathedral was concluded in the 15th century. It had the space for two portals - the Mirador and Almoina.

Beginning of the 16th century - Construction of the choir enclosed in the center of the main nave began at the beginning of the 16th century.

17th - 18th centuries - Baroque entered the Palma Cathedral’s interior as altarpieces like the Corpus Christi, paintings, and sculptures marked by post-Tridentine spirituality.

19th century - Palma Cathedral’s main facade was endangered due to the earthquake of 1851. Madrid architect Juan Bautista Peyronnet led the restoration efforts.

History of Palma Cathedral explained

palma cathedral Royal Chapel

In the beginning

13th century

While documents related to the construction of the Palma Cathedral date back to 1230, real work began only during the reign of James II. He handed the lead to Bishop Pere de Morella, who consecrated the altar of the high altar. The new factory, integrated into the Royal Chapel and home to the tombs of the monarchs of the Royal House of Mallorca, was also constructed around the same time. Trinity Chapel simultaneously began taking shape.

Inside Palma Cathedral Bell

Palma Cathedral takes shape

14th-15th century

The Palma Cathedral began taking shape in the 14th and 15th centuries. The nine bell towers, the largest of which was called Eloi, were completed in 1498. Some years later, part of the Old Work of the Cathedral was concluded. It had two portals - the Mirador and the Almoina. In the 16th century, work started on another part of the Palma Cathedral - the center of the main nave. Around the same time, the constructive completion of the Cathedral was decided with the New Construction factory.

Aesthetic changes to the Palma Cathedral

Aesthetic changes to the Palma Cathedral

17th-18th century

Changes were made to Palma Cathedral’s interior during the 17th and 18th centuries. Baroque, a unique European architecture style prevalent at the time, became the key theme of the cathedral’s interior. Altarpieces, paintings, and sculptures marked by post-Tridentine spirituality had Baroque written all over them: the most stunning piece was the Corpus Christi altarpiece. It is a celebrated artwork in Mallorca and the reference point for the Corpus Christi feast celebrated two months after Easter Sunday.

palma cathedral aieral view

The earthquake

1851

Palma Cathedral had become the center of Mallorca when it suffered grave damage due to the 1851 earthquake. Restoration efforts were undertaken soon after to bring the monument back to its former glory. Madrid architect Juan Bautista Peyronnet led the efforts in 1851. He based his work on the artificial neo-Gothic style, with the main facade the most striking element.

Palma Cathedral - New and improved

Palma Cathedral - New and improved

20th century

Palma Cathedral saw further improvement as the years passed by. Antoni Gaudi, the legendary Spanish architect, added his touch in the 20th century to the pastoral demands. Bishop Pere Joan Campins promoted Gaudi’s ideas, with the improvements added between 1904 and 1915. Gaudi’s work helped recover the space of the faithful, the visibility of the choral presbytery, the episcopal chair, and the Chapel of the Trinity.

Construction of Palma Cathedral

The construction of Palma Cathedral, known locally as "La Seu," proves the enduring spirit of humans. Started in 1230 under the reign of King James II (1276-1311), the cathedral took over three centuries to complete. Many expert architects like Pere Morey contributed to the cathedral’s original Gothic design, which was later adapted to reflect modern times under Spanish great Antoni Gaudí. Gaudi added a modernist touch when the cathedral underwent restoration due to the earthquake of 1851.

Today, Palma Cathedral embodies the Gothic architectural style. It features a soaring nave and intricate stained glass windows. The cathedral also boasts one of the world's largest rose windows, adorned with intricate tracery. Everything, along with the windows, blends various styles, from Gothic to Gaudí's Art Nouveau.

Additional Information about Palma Cathedral’s History

Palma Cathedral interior

Palma Cathedral's history is intertwined with the modernist architecture movement in Spain. Renowned architect Antoni Gaudi, who made unparalleled contributions to architecture in the early 20th century, added his unique vision to Palma Cathedral’s interior architecture after it was destroyed by the earthquake in 1851. He added distinctive modernist elements, such as the wrought-iron canopy over the altar and the thorns adorning the baldachin. These blended with the existing Gothic design and enriched the cathedral's historical tapestry.

Palma Cathedral today

Palma Cathedral is a cherished symbol of Palma de Mallorca, Spain. A Gothic masterpiece and a place of worship, the cathedral draws visitors from around the world. The centuries-old building delves into Palma Cathedral’s history and various architectural styles, including Antoni Gaudí's modernist movement. The cathedral also provides info on the city's culture and heritage and is a wonderful place to visit in Spain.




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Frequently asked questions about Palma Cathedral's History

What is the historical significance of Palma Cathedral?

Palma Cathedral is one of the oldest cathedrals in Europe. It was constructed over three centuries, with the cathedral finished in the 16th century.

How old is the Palma Cathedral?

The Palma Cathedral is over three centuries old.

How many years did it take to build Palma Cathedral?

It took over three centuries to build Palma Cathedral. Construction of the building started in the 13th century.

Who built/designed Palma Cathedral?

James II (1276-1311) sanctioned the construction of the Palma Cathedral.

What is the architectural style of Palma Cathedral?

Palma Cathedral boasts Gothic architecture.

What is the historical context in which Palma Cathedral was created?

Palma Cathedral stands on the land that once housed Madina Mayurqa. It was knocked down by King I of Aragon to build a large temple for Queen Mary.

What events or incidents have shaped the history of Palma Cathedral?

Palma Cathedral was built under King James II (1276-1311). In later centuries, it was destroyed by an earthquake and subsequently rebuilt by Antoni Gaudi, a legendary Spanish architect.

How has Palma Cathedral contributed to the city’s cultural heritage/architectural style/artistic heritage/history?

Yes, Palma Cathedral has contributed to the city’s cultural heritage. The building’s Gothic architecture served as inspiration for many structures in Mallorca.

What are some lesser-known historical facts or anecdotes about Palma Cathedral?

Few people know Palma Cathedral has the largest rose window in the world for structures of the same type. It is called the ‘Eye of the Gothic.’

Are there guided tours explaining the Palma Cathedral’s history?

Yes, guided tours explaining the Palma Cathedral’s history exist.

Is it worth visiting Palma Cathedral?

Yes, Palma Cathedral is worth visiting because it is over three centuries old. It has a fascinating Gothic architecture that glimpses into the craftsmanship of Antoni Gaudi and the architects that preceded him.